Archive for March, 2012

Looks Like Surgery for Zuccarello

March 26, 2012

Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record is reporting that Mats Zuccarello is expected to undergo surgery on his broken wrist today.  Zuccarello suffered the fracture in the Rangers’ 4-1 loss Friday against Buffalo at Madison Square Garden.  That was the last game of a seven-game Ranger homestand in which the Blueshirts went 4-3-0.   No word, apparently, on a time frame for the injury…it is being phrased as an “indefinite” absence.

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Move over, Jeremy Lin

March 22, 2012

A couple of quick things…

I missed this  in the New York Daily Newsyesterday, but apparently the onset of “Zuccsanity” has been declared in Manhattan.

And the Norwegian

"Zuccsanity"?

fireplug in its vortex continues to cement his status as one of the great deadpan-funny quotemakers that I’ve been around.  In fact, between him and Artem Anisimov, the Rangers might be breaking new ground in the area of European-generated hockey one-liners.  And full marks to Pat Leonard of the Daily News, he clearly has a real good ear for them.

And the Binghamton Senators did the Whale a big favor by shutting the Bridgeport Sound Tigers out, 3-0, in Bingo last night.  That was the Sound Tigers’ game-in-hand on the Whale, so the two clubs are now even in games-played, with the Whale remaining four points ahead of Bridgeport for the Northeast Division lead.  After that other-worldly 20-2-0-2 run they reeled off from the First of the Year through March 6, the Sound Tigers are 0-5-0-2 in seven games and have now lost five straight in regulation.

First of the ATOs

March 21, 2012

The Major Junior seasons ended this past weekend, and the first two prospects to join the Whale are in the fold.

Winger Andrew Yogan and defenseman Peter Ceresnak, both late of the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes, were on the ice with the Whale for practice this morning, after signing Amateur Tryout (ATO) agreements.

It wasn’t a great season for the Petes, coached by former New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Pelino, as they finished second-to-last in the

Andrew Yogan

OHL’s Eastern Conference and eight points out of a playoff spot.  Yogan had a strong year, though, and a real good finish.  The 20-year-old

Florida native, who has exhausted his Junior eligibility, was OHL Player of the Week for the last week of the season, and went out with a bang.  In the Petes’ season finale Sunday at Oshawa, Yogan had his first career OHL four-goal game, and added an assist for five points, while going +4, in a wild, 8-6 win over the Generals.  He finished the season on an eight-game point streak, during which he had 12-8-20, to get to 41 goals and 37 assists for 78 points on the year in 66 games.

The Whale are fairly deep on the blueline, even without the recalled Tim Erixon, so it might be tough for Ceresnak to get into the lineup.  There were only 11 healthy forwards on the roster as of last game, however, making for a good opportunity for Yogan, as Blake Parlett has had to play quite a bit up front since coming back from Greenville in order to give the Whale four full lines.  The way they had the line combos set up in practice today certainly made it seem as though Yogan could be given a chance in a fairly prominent role.

Taken for Grant-ed

March 19, 2012

Tommy Grant about to bury the first of his two goals in Sunday's 5-4 shootout win over Portland

OK, raise your hand if you saw Tommy Grant having a four-point game for the Whale this year.

Hmm, not many hands up, but to be fair, I don’t know if Grant himself would raise a paw in response to that one.

But there he was on Sunday against Portland, scoring two goals and setting up another in the second period alone, and then putting the shot on net that created the rebound that Jon Audy-Marchessault buried for the tying goal with only 2:05 left in regulation.

Grant has been a reasonably serviceable guy for the Whale all season, showing noticeably good foot speed for a 6-2, 195-pounder and making

some impact by banging bodies on the forecheck, but until the last month, had not shown much of an offensive touch.  Starting with a two-goal game in Hershey February 4, though, he has been an ever-increasing presence on the scoresheet, and with his four-pointer Sunday, now has eight points (four goals, four assists) in the last eight games, 12 points (5-7-12) in the last 13 and going back to that early-February win in Chocolatetown, seven goals and 14 points in 19 games, after he managed only eight points in his first 43.

In addition to those good feet, Grant is bringing a quick and accurate shot to the table, which is interesting because he never was a big goal-scorer in college, his high having been 16 in 37 games with Alaska-Anchorage last year.  He seems to me to be reading the game a lot better as well, in terms of getting into spots where the puck can find him and he can get it at the net.  The timing couldn’t have been better for the Whale either, what with Mats Zuccarello showing no signs of a quick return from New York and Chad Kolarik not eligible to play.

Where the Prospects Stand

March 16, 2012

This is the time of year when young prospects, either Juniors or college players, start finishing their seasons and joining AHL clubs on tryouts.  Here is a quick update on where some of the Rangers’ prospects’ teams and seasons stand:

Peter Ceresnak (defenseman, Peterborough, OHL) – a teammate of Andrew Yogan (see below), Ceresnak is about to see his OHL season end Sunday, as the Petes have been eliminated from postseason contention.  Ceresnak, a Slovak, was a sixth-round pick in this past summer’s draft by the Rangers and has six goals and 16 points in 60 games in his first North American season.  He is also Even in plus/minus for a team that is eight games below .500 and -64 in goal differential.

Chris Kreider (forward, Boston College)– the Eagles, the #1 seed in the Hockey East tournament after winning the league’s regular-season

Chris Kreider

championship, are up against #7 seed Providence College Friday at the TD Garden in the tourney semi-finals.  Even if they happen to be upset by the Friars, I would figure that their regular-season title would be good enough to guarantee them an NCAA berth.  If the Whale are still playing by the time B.C. is done, Kreider, selected 19th overall by the Rangers in 2009, would have to forego his final year of eligibility, and most likely would have to agree on a contract with the Rangers, as I doubt he would sign a tryout agreement if he did not have an NHL deal set for next year.

Shane McColgan (forward, Kelowna, WHL) – McColgan, a fifth-round Ranger pick last summer, has 18 goals and 64 points this year for a Rockets team that is one game below .500 but has clinched a WHL playoff spot.

Dylan McIlrath (defenseman, Moose Jaw, WHL) – the Warriors are going to win their division, so McIlrath, the Rangers’ first-rounder (10th overall) in 2010, might be some time before he would be eligible to come to the Whale.  He played two late-season games in a Whale uniform last spring.

J.T. Miller (forward, Plymouth, OHL) – Miller’s Whalers have won ten games in a row and are leading the entire Ontario League with 97 points, so it doesn’t appear that the Rangers’ first-round pick from this past June will be available for a while.

Samuel Noreau (defenseman, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) – The QMJHL regular season concludes this weekend, and the Drakkar, although they are five games below .500, are headed to the playoffs.  Noreau, a 6-5, 215-pounder who was picked in the fifth round last summer, has four goals, 16 points, 88 PIM and a +2 in 56 games this year.

Michael St. Croix (forward, Edmonton, WHL) – St. Croix has had a great year, with 43 goals and 101 points in 70 games in his third year with the Oil Kings, but like Miller, his team leads its league and figures to be primed for a long playoff run.

Scott Stajcer (goaltender, Owen Sound, OHL) – Stajcer’s Attack squad will be a playoff team again this year, but are not as powerful as last year’s team that went all the way to the Memorial Cup.  Right now, Owen Sound is the fifth seed in the OHL’s Western Conference.

Christian Thomas (forward, Oshawa, OHL) – Thomas, a 54-goal-scorer for the Generals last year and a second-round pick by the Rangers in 2010, has 33 in 53 games this season.  The Generals will make the OHL playoffs, which begin next Thursday, but they are seeded seventh in their conference, so barring upsets, the Whale might have a decent chance of seeing Thomas before too long.

Andrew Yogan (forward, Peterborough, OHL) – Yogan, who had two goals and an assist in two games with the Whale at the end of his Junior season last year, is the Petes’ leading point and goal-scorer, with 37-36-73 in 64 games.  As stated in relation to Peter Ceresnak, Peterborough has been eliminated from playoff contention and their season ends Sunday, so Yogan is a strong candidate to find himself back in Hartford again soon.

Finding Offense

March 11, 2012

So the Whale lose one of their most skilled players, Mats Zuccarello, a couple of hours before Sunday’s game in Manchester, after their offense had been strangled the night before in a 3-1 home loss to Norfolk, in which the Whale’s top talent was held almost completely in check.

And what happens?

Don’t the Whale come out and put up a five-spot on the road in their third game in three days, handing the Monarchs a 5-3 defeat and moving back into a tie with Bridgeport in the points column.

Five goals qualifies as quite an outburst for the Whale.  It was the third time in the last 11 games that they had bested the five-goal mark, but only their seventh outing of five goals or better all year.

Leading the way was Casey Wellman, who scored two goals and an assist for his best output since joining the Whale.  Wellman’s numbers aren’t

Casey Wellman

overwhelming since the trade, 6-6-12 in 16 games with the Whale, compared to 14-11-25 in 26 games with Houston, but look at the Whale’s record since he came aboard.  The trade was made while the Whale were coming off of an 0-6-3-2 January, and the club is now 11-4-1 in 16

games with Wellman in the lineup.  Some of that may be coincidence, but there is no doubting that Wellman’s speed and good hands around the net have been a big help.  He got even more responsibility Sunday with Zuccarello not available, and had a goal just 1:14 in that gave the Whale some confidence after the loss to Norfolk, and also scored the third-period tally that gave Connecticut the lead for good.

It was nice of Norfolk, too, to go down and beat Bridgeport after snuffing out the Whale’s seven-game home winning streak on Saturday’s Connecticut Hockey Hall of Fame Night.  The Admirals’ 6-3 win over the Sound Tigers on Sunday allowed the Whale to tie Bridgeport in the points column.

It’s looking like Norfolk is legitimately the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, and maybe the league, after they extended their winning streak to 15 with their sweep of the Nutmeg State.  I talked to their captain, Mike Angelidis, before Saturday’s game, and he told me that the Admirals have better depth this year than last season, when they fell in six games to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the first round, after winning the first two on the road.  If Tampa Bay doesn’t make the playoffs and the Admirals get any kind of goaltending at all, they are going to be tough to stop.  I didn’t think they played nearly their best game Saturday, and the Whale held them to only two shots in the second period, but Norfolk squared everything away in the third, and never seemed to doubt that they were going to win.

Who’s Coming, Who’s not

March 7, 2012

From a cursory perusal of the recently-released Clear Day lists, here is a rundown of what I found interesting as far as either presences on, or absences from, various teams’ lists:

Abbotsford: Old friend Hugh Jessiman, interestingly, is not on the Heat’s list, despite having scored 23 goals in 53 games between Abbotsford and Lake Erie.  Both Roman Horak, a former Ranger draft pick, and Krys Kolanos are on the list, despite Horak only having played seven games with the Heat all year, and Kolanos also having been up with Calgary for almost all of the last month.

Adirondack: Philadelphia did not reassign Tom Sestito or Zac Rinaldo (he only played in four AHL games this year), but the Phantoms do have Brayden Schenn on their list, and he only played seven games for them this year, along with Erik Gustafsson, who has only seen 19 games of AHL action.

Albany:  The Devils will not see Stephane Veilleux, who has logged 40 games for them this year, but New Jersey did put Matt Taormina on Albany’s list, and he has only played two AHL games since early December.  Fellow defenseman Jay Leach is on the list as well, and he has been injured since before Christmas.

Binghamton:  Both Robin Lehner, last year’s Calder Cup playoff MVP, and Ben Bishop, who leads the league in save percentage and shutouts, are on the Senators’ list for goaltenders.

Charlotte:  The Checkers aren’t getting Justin Faulk back, which can’t surprise them, but dynamic forwards Jerome Samson and Drayson Bowman, both currently on recall to Carolina, are on Charlotte’s list.

Chicago:  Defenseman Chris Tanev played 34 games for the Wolves this year, but Vancouver did not put him on Chicago’s list.

Grand Rapids: Looks like Joey MacDonald and Ty Conklin have definitely switched places in the organization, as Conklin is on the Griffins’ list and MacDonald is not.

Hamilton:  Forward Aaron Palushaj, who has been with Montreal for the last month, is on the Bulldogs’ list.

Hershey:  Keith Aucoin is on the list…no surprise there, although he’s been up with Washington for a month.  It is a little surprising, though, that Washington also put Dmitry Orlov on.  He hasn’t seen Hershey since Thanksgiving and has been averaging 17 minutes of ice per game on the Capitals’ blueline.

Houston:  Veterans (former Wolf Pack) Jed Ortmeyer (34 games with Houston), Warren Peters (20 games) and Brad Staubitz (four games in a stint late in the year) were left off Houston’s list, but Nick Palmieri (acquired in the Marek Zidlicky deal), Marco Scandella (49 games with Minnesota) and Steven Kampfer (12 games with Providence, rest of the year in the NHL) all are on the list.

Lake Erie:  Mark Olver, who played 10 games with the parent Avalanche this year, is not on the Monsters’ Clear Day, but defensemen Tyson Barrie (the team’s second-leading scorer) and Stefan Elliott (38 games with Colorado), both of whom are currently on recall, are on the list.

Manchester:  The Kings will not be sending Slava Voynov back, but Dwight King and Jordan Nolan can come back, and former Yale Eli David Meckler, who has been hurt since Christmas, is also on the Monarchs’ list.

Milwaukee:  Both defenseman Ryan Ellis and forward Gabriel Bourque, up with Nashville since before the New Year, are on the Admirals’ list.

Norfolk:  Big D-man Keith Aulie, picked up from Toronto in a deadline deal, has yet to play in Norfolk, but Tampa put him on the Admirals’ Clear Day.

Oklahoma City:  The Oilers elected not to put forward Lennart Petrell on the Western Conference-leading Barons’ list.

Peoria:  The Rivermen will not get blueliner Ian Cole back from St. Louis.

Portland:  Phoenix, which made several deals around Clear Day to shuffle up the Pirates’ roster, did not put defenseman Chris Summers on Portland’s list, but they did make fellow rearguards Michael Stone and David Rundblad available, and injured ex-Wolf Pack Ryan Hollweg was put on the list, to give the Pirates an automatic slot to maneuver with.

Providence:  Boston elected not to put Jordan Caron, suddenly hot for the big club, on Providence’s list, despite his 17 AHL games-played this year.

Rochester: Corey Tropp, who after the first month of the season has spent much more time in Buffalo than in Rochester, could come back from the Sabres to the Amerks.

Springfield:  Neither Brett Lebda nor Darryl Boyce, who was acquired by Columbus after playing 22 AHL games with Toronto earlier in the year, was put on the Falcons’ Clear Day, but the Blue Jackets did list Ryan Russell, who has been up since just after the First of the Year, and defenseman John Moore, who has played only five games in Springfield this year and whom the Falcons haven’t seen since October.

Syracuse:  Antero Niittymaki, who was brought in on loan from San Jose in early February in an attempt to stabilize the Crunch’s goaltending, is not on their list, but fellow netminder Jeff Deslauriers, currently on recall to Anaheim, is.  And Farmington’s Nick Bonino appears to have made it as an NHLer, at least for now…he is not on Syracuse’s list.

Texas:  The Stars will not be getting goaltender Richard Bachman, forward Ryan Garbutt or defenseman Philip Larsen back from Dalls, but winger Tomas Vincour is on Texas’ list.

Toronto: Joey Crabb will not be coming back from the Leafs, but the Marlies could get some muscle in the person of Jay Rosehill, who was put on their list after playing only two games in the AHL this year.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:  Eric Tangradi, who could not be put on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s list last year because of an injury, is on it this year, despite having spent much of the last two months with Pittsburgh.

Worcester:  Not much help for the Sharks from San Jose, as forwards Tommy Wingels and Ben Ferriero, and defenseman Justin Braun (granted, he only played six games in Worcester before getting the call), are all absent from Worcester’s list.

Let the stretch run begin!

Offensive Spurts

March 5, 2012

The Whale offense was hot and cold over the weekend.  They scored five goals in the two games, a win and a loss, which is reasonably respectable.  The interesting part is, though, they all came in quick bursts.  The two tallies in the 3-2 loss in Portland Friday were scored in a span of 25 seconds in the second period, and after being held scoreless by Jeff Zatkoff and the Manchester Monarchs for over 48 minutes on Sunday, the Whale exploded for three goals in 3:37, including two on the same four-on-four situation.

The Friday game was quite disappointing, as the Whale seemed to control the game quite well for most of the first two periods, and held a 2-1 lead going into the third, only to let the Pirates dictate the play for most of the first 11 minutes of the third, during which the home side scored a pair of goals.  On Sunday, by contrast, the Whale seemed to be playing the way they wanted to play for most of the game, getting plenty of pucks at the net and attacking the Monarchs with speed.  And though they weren’t rewarded with anything through the first two periods, they were generating a number of good chances and you had the sense that if they kept it up, they were going to be rewarded.  Zatkoff held them at bay for a while, but once the Whale broke through they got hot, and they didn’t take their foot off the pedal.

The Whale may have been sparked in that game by the announcement at a team dinner the night before that Wade Redden had been chosen the Whale’s captain for the final quarter of the season.  This was welcomed by an enthusiastic and sincere round of applause, and Redden, a

Wade Redden

low-key guy who has seen it all over his 15-year pro career, seemed genuinely moved by the honor and his teammates’ reaction.  It was a real feel-good moment, and it’s hard to say whether it carried over into the game or not, but there was a perceptible positive vibe around the club that I think may really have helped it gut out what was a real big win on Sunday, with Bridgeport winning as well (just for a change).

The other thing that may have given the Whale a jolt of energy in Sunday’s game was a new set of line combinations.

This coaching staff, at least as far as I can tell, has tended to keep forward lines together more this year than they have in the past, when they seemed to like to shuffle them up on a fairly regular basis.  After scoring only three goals in three games though, and only one outside of that 25-second burst in Friday’s third period, they decided to shake things up for Sunday.

I can’t remember the last time Kris Newbury and Mats Zuccarello weren’t on the same line, but they were apart Sunday, with Jon Audy-Marchessault moved into Zuccarello’s old spot on the left side with Newbury and Andre Deveaux.  Zuccarello moved onto Casey Wellman’s left wing, where Audy-Marchessault had been, with Andreas Thuresson playing the right side, Kelsey Tessier centered Tommy Grant and Ryan Bourque and Jeff Prough played with Jordan Owens and Scott Tanski.  In addition to Newbury and Zuccarello being separated, it was interesting to me too that wing combo of Tanski and Grant was moved onto separate lines.  Two big, straight-line, hard-charging rookies, those two had formed a good physical tandem.  Their centers had been flip-flopped, either Owens or Tessier, but the coaches had seemed to like Tanski and Grant out together.  Hard to argue with the results of the changes though, especially with Grant making a real nice play on the Whale’s first goal of Sunday’s game, on a shift on which he found himself out with Newbury and Deveaux, and Newbury scoring his 20th shortly thereafter, winning a draw and going to the front to tip in a shot by Pavel Valentenko.

Monday is the AHL’s “Clear Day” playoff roster deadline.  Although the NHL trade deadline has passed and players cannot change NHL organizations, guys can still move between AHL teams on loan deals until the Clear Day lists are officially submitted.  And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen as many significant players change addresses after the trade deadline than we saw this week.  The latest was the Peoria Rivermen acquiring Patrick O’Sullivan from Portland, unfortunately not before he had a goal and an assist Friday against the Whale, via a loan deal from Phoenix, and St. Louis, Peoria’s parent club, sending former AHL 50-goal man Brett Sterling to the Pirates in exchange.  Prior to that, goaltender Alex Stalock went from Worcester to Peoria on a loan deal from San Jose.  Before suffering a major injury during the second half of last season, Stalock played 102 games in Worcester’s net in a little over a season-and-a-half, including a league-high 61 in his rookie year of 2009-10.  Phoenix also worked a deal with Winnipeg that moved Brock Trotter, who had a four-point game against the Whale earlier this year and had 31 points in 35 games with Portland, to St. John’s, with the Jets reassigning goaltender Peter Mannino and winger Kenndal McArdle to the Pirates.  Winnipeg also traded AHL-contracted player Shawn Weller to Texas, in exchange for Dallas loaning forward Raymond Sawada to the IceCaps.

Got all that?

I haven’t heard rumblings of any moves by the Whale, but until that list goes in at 3:00 Monday, you never know.

Missed Opportunity

March 2, 2012

The Whale let a big opportunity slip away tonight in their 3-2 loss in Portland,  which they led, 2-1, going into the third period.

Bridgeport lost as well, 5-2 at Albany, just their second regulation loss in the last 22 games, so if the Whale had won, they would have moved two points ahead of the Sound Tigers and into sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division.  As it is, the two teams remain tied at 66 points apiece, and Bridgeport has two more wins than the Whale, and two games in hand.

The Whale are all of a sudden having an awfully tough time scoring goals, as both of their scores in tonight’s game came in a span of 25 seconds in the second period.  Other than that burst, since their 5-1 home win last Friday over the Pirates, the Whale have scored one goal in three games.  Luckily, the penalty kill has been outstanding, 27/27 in the last six games and 53/55 in the last 14, and Chad Johnson was solid again…didn’t have much of a chance on any of the three goals.

The Whale pressed pretty hard after the Pirates took the lead, and Portland goaltender Justin Pogge seemed to be fighting the puck a bit, but the Whale could never get the equalizer.  It was kind of a funny game–Portland had a goal disallowed late in the second on what seemed to be a bit of a phantom goaltender interference penalty, and it also looked as if the Pirates definitely should have been called for interference on a hit on Andre Deveaux right before the winning goal.